While many were anxious to welcome this New Year, 2012 will be forever etched in the minds of those whose lives were touched in one way or the other by the Guyanese greats who passed away this year.
They included professionals, artistes and even the world’s oldest blogger at the time of his passing. Stabroek News reflects on the lives of 19 persons who have left indelible impressions on so many.
January 13: Legendary music and boxing promoter Cyril Shaw died at the age of 89. Shaw is best remembered for the invaluable contribution he made in launching and promoting the career of world renowned Calypso King, the Mighty Sparrow and local calypsonians such as Lord Canary, King Fighter, Lady Guymine and many others. Shaw, according to friends and business associates, was a sterling example of the promoter every artist or entertainer longed for since many times he left himself and family without to satisfy the needs of those who entrusted him with managing and promoting their career.
January 16: Social history icon and culture enthusiast Godfrey Chin was found dead at his David Street, Kitty home. He was 74 and was said to be suffering from a serious strain of influenza. He is remembered as a sportsman, a designer, a cinephile, and a music lover with a great memory and a deep love for his country, which saw him chronicling his experiences and memories of his boyhood days in Guyana. His most popular Nostalgia series in various media, as well as a book, Godfrey’s Nostalgias – Golden Memories of Guyana 1940-1980 – was read by many and is still revered as one of the best memories of Guyana. He had hosted pictorial exhibitions at various venues across North America, including Vancouver in Canada and in the US in Washington DC, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and in Guyana.
January 30: Robert Williams, deputy mayor of Georgetown died at the Caribbean Heart Institute where he was being treated. He was 62. He was described by friends, co-workers and fellow politicians as humane person, a man of integrity, and true a son of the soil. Williams served as minister of Fisheries under the Forbes Burnham administration and later held the position of mayor of Georgetown from 1987-1989 then that of deputy mayor from 1998 up to the time of his death. Williams functioned as chairman of City Hall’s Finance, Public Health and Market committees and the Guyana Association for Municipalities. He also served as a commissioner at Guyana Elections Commission.
February 14: Veteran photographer Ken Moore passed away at the age of 72. Stabroek News’ chief photographer for many years, he is remembered for his artistic flair, his dedication to the job and his jovial spirit. According to the book Freedom of Expression and the Birth of Stabroek News, Moore started out at the Argosy. He had been taught his skills by Donald Periana and CD Kirton. He also had experience in the United States, having gone there for formal training at the School of Modern Photography in Little Falls, New Jersey. Following this, he worked for two years at Time-Life and eventually returned to Guyana in 1985 and opened his own studio. He began working with Stabroek News after it was established in 1986.
April 7: Renowned Guyanese pianist Dennis De Souza passed away while in Canada, ending a battle with Parkinson’s disease. The international star, who began playing the piano at nine years old, was 77. He is celebrated for his unique mix of Caribbean musical genres, from Latin music to calypso. De Souza recorded over 15 albums, including with the Caribbean’s top talents such as the Mighty Sparrow, sitar player Mungal Patasar, Jamaican legend Byron Lee, American percussionist Ralph Mac Donald and steel pannist Robert Greenidge.
May 30: Renowned artist and sculptor Phillip Moore died a prolonged period of illness. He was 90. The art and culture icon was best known for the 1763 Monument, which portrays the 1763 Berbice Slave revolt through several artworks mounted on a bronze statue of the artist’s interpretation of the revolt leader, Cuffy. A former professor of art at the Burrowes School of Arts here and at Princeton University in the US, Moore is recognised for his influence on artists both here and further afield. His myriad paintings and sculptures mostly illustrate Guyanese culture though the unique merging of his experiences and inspiration. It was his non-conformist attitude to artistic styles that made him stand out from other artists since he incorporated varying techniques, producing work of a high standard while influencing aspiring artists to do the same.
July 6: City Councillor and Guyana Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) stalwart Premchand Dass passed away. Dass joined the municipality as a councillor on May 25, 1998. Mayor Hamilton Green and his councillors in reflecting on Dass’ life said that he served with distinction on the Finance, Personnel and Training and Investment and Development committees of the council. He was a senior official of GAWU for many years and joined the council as a representative of the PPP/C following the 1994 local government elections.
August 11: Broadcaster and international civil servant Hugh Cholmondeley died at the age of 73. He had a long career here as a broadcaster and worked with several international organisations in conflict resolution and other areas. The late broadcaster’s daughter, Alliance for Change Member of Parliament, Cathy Hughes listed her father’s myriad skills as being brought to bear in the areas of “peace-building, disaster response, reconciliation and recovery in war-torn countries; programme and project design, formulation and management; strategic planning for governments, businesses, public utilities, bilateral and multilateral agencies; communications, development, elections, democratisation, governance and related public policy issues; and adviser on the establishment, reform, merger, acquisition and operation of mass media organizations.
August 13: Former commissioner of police Laurie Lewis passed away at his Bachelor’s Adventure, East Coast Demerara home at the age of 70. He had been suffering from a kidney ailment for years and was hospitalised a few times before. Lewis retired from the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in September 2001. After retirement, he worked as a consultant for security firms around the country and was actively engaged in his poultry farm near his home. The former commissioner studied Public Management at the University of Guyana and he also graduated with a law degree from the university.
September 7: Former commissioner of police Henry Greene was killed in a collision at Harlem, West Coast Demerara. He was hailed as a disciplinarian concerned with the personal development of his ranks, praised for his support of sports, and remembered as a father who stood by his family. He had joined the Guyana Police Force on February 15, 1974, and moved up the ranks serving first in ‘E’ Division until 1976. He had several promotions after successfully completing the cadet programme. Greene was admitted to the local bar in 2002 after studies at the University of Guyana and Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad. His biggest promotion came in 2008 when he was confirmed as commissioner by the then President Bharat Jagdeo. Greene retired as police commissioner in April, 2012 after a scandal over allegations that he had committed rape. He was never charged.
October 9: Philanthropist and owner of Guyana’s largest bakery Naeem Nasir, 52, died at a city hospital after a period of illness. “Naeem lived too short a life, I think. But in the short life that he lived, the quality of that life was what was important. He touched many, many people…,” was how President Donald Ramotar described him. He was described as a humble but principled person and was known for his outstanding contribution to humanitarian efforts as he gave his support to people in and out of Guyana. He died before seeing his vision of Guyana’s first soup kitchen located on Brickdam and catering to the needs of the homeless become a reality.
October 15: An accident on the East Coast Demerara claimed the life of prominent attorney Vic Puran on his 57th birthday. Before starting his private practice, Puran, a father of four, worked at the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) as a state prosecutor. He was also a magistrate for several years and was described by friends and associates as a champion of the legal profession.
October 25: Notable Kathak dancer and linguist Indranie Shah-Lennartson, 50, died in Sweden where she lived. One half of the Indranie and Nadira Shah Dance Troupe which put on the show, Nrityageet for 33 years in a row, Indranie is most remembered for that annual event. As a student she was active in the cultural life of St Rose’s High. She was a former student of Shri Pratap Pawar at the Indian Cultural Centre in Guyana. Her first performance was at the Deepavali Jalsa in 1975 at St Rose’s auditorium.
November 8: Well-known businessman and owner of the Denmor Garment Factory, Dennis Morgan died at a city hospital after a heart attack. He was 64. Morgan’s start in the garment business came when he got a job at Lysons Knitwear, which was at the time the time the largest garment manufacturer in the Caribbean. Morgan started “at the bottom” sweeping the factory floor and doing other menial jobs for which he was paid $18 a week. His keen eye for business saw him making the right investments and on July 3, 1997 Denmor started manufacturing. He eventually expanded the factory producing for clothing lines and stores such as Russell Athletics, Victoria Secret, JC Penney, Wal-Mart and Target among others. His factory was also certified for good employment practices as part of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership. In addition to being a businessman, Morgan also held the position of chairman of the Police Service Commission for many years.
November 8: Senior Counsel Clarence Hughes, father of attorney Nigel Hughes died. He was 77. Hughes was one of the partners at the legal firm Hughes, Fields and Stoby which he founded in the 1972 and was conferred with the honour of Senior Counsel in 1985. Hughes will be remembered for the role he played in the ‘Grenada 17 trial’, after that island nation’s then prime minister, Maurice Bishop, was assassinated in 1983. Apart from Grenada, Clarence Hughes had also practiced in other Caribbean states. To his children, friends and co-workers he was a lover of the law, a generous contributor to society and a devoted family man.
November 25: Guyanese musical sensation Pamela Maynard died in Canada, ending her battle with breast cancer. She was 58. Born in Georgetown, Pamela was the daughter of Guyanese singer/songwriter Mavis Maynard, who wrote Pamela’s debut hit “Lost, Lonely and Helpless”. At the age of 15, Pamela sang lead and backing vocals with the Yoruba Singers, and then with Sid & The Slickers. After leaving school in 1976, Pamela joined the Guyana Defence Force and was a member of its band. She sang for visiting dignitaries such as Fidel Castro and also represented her country by singing at festivals.
November 26: Prominent labour attorney and trade unionist Randolph F Kirton passed on. He was 77. Leader of the Opposition David Granger saw Kirton’s death as a “devastating blow to the trade union movement” while the People’s Progressive Party PPP/C lauded his contribution in the trade Union arena.
December 5: Guyanese born writer Jan Carew passed away at his Louisville, Kentucky home in the United States. He was 92. He led varied lives as a writer, educator, philosopher and advisor to several nation states. After his initial education in the then British Guiana, Carew went on to study at universities in the United States, Czechoslovakia and France. He had also been a political figure during the colonial era and worked with the late president Cheddi Jagan in the fight for independence. Carew is best known for his first novel Black Midas as well as The Wild Coast and his memoir, Ghosts in Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England and the Caribbean. Carew worked in England as a broadcaster and writer with the BBC and lectured in race relations at London University’s Department of Extra-Mural Studies. He also lived in Spain, Ghana, Canada and Mexico before settling in the United States, where he taught at many universities, including Princeton, Rutgers and George Mason. He was also an Emeritus Professor of African American Studies at the Northwestern University, where he taught from 1973 to 1987.
December 9: World’s oldest blogger, Buxtonian Randall Butisingh passed away in Florida USA where he had settled. A former teacher here and freelance journalist during his youth Butisingh never stopped working. He was said by his children to have always been innovative and productive. He was an entrepreneur in the printing business and was one of the largest suppliers of greeting cards in Guyana. He wrote poems and sentiments for the cards he sold.